UR Quidditch: Passion, class, and brooms of course!

Univ. Communications – Many of you may have only heard of Quidditch as the magical sport of J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter series. But your dreams of Bludger dodging, Snitch chasing and Quaffle scoring can become a reality when you join UR’s Muggle Quidditch team.

Muggle Quidditch began circa 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont but has since grown into an international phenomenon. The International Quidditch Association comprises over 1,000 teams in at least 13 countries with over 400 teams in the U.S. alone, mostly on college campuses.

Naturally, Muggle Quidditch does not include any flying or enchanting (unless you count the rapt spectators). As in the books, a game is played between two teams of seven players.  Three circular goals (usually made of PVC pipes and hula hoops) stand on each end of the field protected by two Keepers on each side. Two Chasers per team concentrate on scoring goals (worth ten points each) by passing a volleyball, while two Beaters attempt to knock players out of play by throwing dodge balls.

Each team’s Seeker spends the match trying to capture the elusive human snitch – a person donning gold or yellow clothing with a tennis ball in a tube sock attached to their waistband.  The human snitch is allowed to roam an area far beyond the field, climb trees, hide, and pester the other players. The game comes to an end when the snitch is captured and thirty points are awarded to the captor’s team. In essence the sport is a combination of rugby, dodge ball, tag, and basketball. Oh yeah, and everyone has to run around with a broom between their legs.

“It’s a full contact, athletic sport, it’s not a bunch of nerds running around on brooms,” said Katherine Pieper, president of the UR Quidditch team (aka The Thestrals). “One of the most common misconceptions about Quidditch is that if you aren’t a Harry Potter nerd then you shouldn’t play. I think that’s completely wrong. It’s taken on a complete life of its own. There are people who play Quidditch who are obsessed with Harry Potter, people who hate it, people who have no idea what it is. It doesn’t have to do with Harry Potter anymore and that’s the great thing about Muggle Quidditch.”

The Rochester team has been steadily climbing the International Quidditch Association’s rankings since its founding in 2009. As a Division 1 team, they have been ranked 7th in the world and 1st in New York State. The team has performed well in the annual World Cup Tournaments though last weekend’s result were an admitted disappointment.  The Thestrals did not make it past pool play in their bracket.

“It was a devastating blow for the team, but it did leave us free on Sunday to watch, ref, and Snitch for as many games as we liked,” said Pieper. “Another highlight for us, while it wasn’t our own team, was supporting our friends from the RIT, The Dark Marks, as they made it to the Finals for Division 2 of the Cup, ultimately coming in second place.”

You may be surprised by this warm camaraderie, but the UR Quidditch team has earned a solid reputation as one of the most upstanding and well-mannered opponents in the sport.  “We’ve had several teams tell us that we’re one of the nicest teams they’ve ever played with, which we really pride ourselves on,” said Pieper.

Even in shut-out matches of 260 to zero, The Thestrals have held to the highest standards of ethical sportsmanship. “We don’t play Quidditch to win – we play Quidditch for the love of the sport and the people who dedicate as much of their lives to playing as we do,” Pieper added.

Though the season usually lasts only until the the annual fall World Cup, the UR team is attempting to extend training into the winter months and organize a regional Upstate New York Tournament on campus in the spring. As an SA recognized and funded club sport, the team has been steadily growing in numbers; today there are almost thirty active members that come together for practice drills and matches sever times per week. The Thestrals have also become involved in freshman orientation activities to inform and engage the incoming students as well as philanthropic community work through sponsoring book drives.

Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications. She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world. An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo. She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia (www.out-of-russia.com) and the other to photography (www.myorientalism.com).